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GTE-Pro Teams Surprised by Porsche Pace

Porsche’s GTE-Pro rivals didn’t expect Bruni’s record-breaking 3m 47s lap…

Photo: Porsche

Several GTE-Pro teams have voiced their surprise at the chart-topping time set by one of the Porsche 911 RSRs in the first 24 Hours of Le Mans qualifying session.

The time clocked by Gianmaria Bruni in the Rothmans-themed No. 91 Porsche at the start of Wednesday’s evening run was 3.3 seconds faster than last year’s pole time set by a previous-generation Aston Martin Vantage.

It was also 1.6 seconds quicker than the next-best manufacturer effort of the 2018 field and fell into the same bracket as some GT1 class pole positions from the previous decade.

When asked by Sportscar365 if Ford expected the Porsche to lap so quickly, Ford WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell said, “No. That was a very impressive lap.”

“It looks like all of the [Porsches] can do it when you look in the detail, so that’s a very impressive qualifying pace,” he said.

“I don’t think we can get close to that. But then again, we’re at Le Mans. It’s not about what we can do in qualifying, it’s about what we can do in the race.

“Hopefully we can be competitive with them over a couple of stints.”

Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner held a similar opinion to Howard-Chappell, admitting the size of the gap between Porsche and the rest of the field was not expected.

The fastest Corvette C7.R qualifying time was a 3:50.789 – four seconds quicker than what the team posted at the Test Day but still three seconds off the class best.

Corvette was handed a 10kg weight increase in a Balance of Performance update issued Tuesday, although program manager Doug Fehan downplayed any negative effect when approached by Sportscar365.

“[It was] a little bit surprising in some ways,” said Milner.

“I think their best lap was a 3:52 or something in the Test Day, so five seconds faster is a pretty big chunk.

“We were fairly happy with the result of all the work that we have done, but I can’t help but be, not so much disappointed, but the gap is bigger than we hoped for or expected.”

BMW Team MTEK driver Alexander Sims believes the rest of the GTE-Pro pack is reasonably bunched and that a Balance of Performance adjustment on the Porsche would likely even out the class field.

Both BMW M8 GTEs ran Q1 in full qualifying trim with low fuel and new tires, while the fastest lap across the pair was Antonio Felix da Costa’s 3:50.579.

“We’re in an OK position,” said Sims.

“The Bruni Porsche went substantially faster. That was quite an eye-opener if that’s what their pace can be – further away than we thought. We’re in the mix with the Fords, Corvettes and Ferraris.

“If the Porsche is brought back to the rest of the field then we can at least be in the race.”

Bruni “Surprised” Himself With Lap

Porsche driver Bruni, meanwhile, has said that he was not expecting to lap the 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit at such a pace.

The Italian’s time, which came on his only flying lap, resulted in a 1.5-second difference to Michael Christensen in the second-placed Porsche.

“The lap was really good, it was very clean,” Bruni told Sportscar365.

“The track was really fast. I was surprised that nobody went as fast as this lap, or even faster.

“I was expecting 3:48. Fred [Makowiecki] told me that I would do a 48 flat! The team prepared the car from free practice to qualifying and it was perfect.”

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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